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Blizzard bringing hurricane-force winds to Denver

The blizzard warning for Colorado and beyond has been extended in some areas.

Blizzard conditions are expected for pretty much all of northeastern Colorado on Wednesday - with poor conditions beginning at 10 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

As of 11:30 a.m., the majority of law enforcement organizations in northeastern Colorado are begging residents to stay off roads and hunker in their homes. The National Weather Service reported an 80 mph wind gust at Denver International Airport - as strong as a Category 1 hurricane (winds 74 mph to 95 mph).

Whiteout conditions are covering roads from Commerce City to Nebraska, Wellington to Wyoming and AirPark to Kansas - I-25 has been shut down from Colorado Springs to Castle Rock.

From Routt County to Kit Carson, the metro area to our border with Nebraska, a quarter of the state is under a blizzard warning that is just hammering towns. Stop lights at several suburban towns - Aurora and Parker specifically - are reportedly filling up with snow. Many are out from lack of power, as over 75,000 people are without power in the state.

RELATED | Extremely difficult travel conditions expected: What you need to know

After the 50-degree day in Denver on Monday - with people walking their dogs in flip flops, carefree driving with the windows down - the city and much of the state will see continually deteriorating conditions throughout the day into the evening hours. Snow is coming down sideways - while it is not very heavy in most spots, the wind is making conditions much worse.

Rain slowly changed to snow along the Front Range this morning and spread east to the edge of the plains. Interstates throughout northeastern Colorado are down; Interstate 25 from Douglas County to Colorado Springs, Wellington to the Wyoming border. I-70 and U.S. 36 are shut down from AirPark to Kansas. Interstate 76 is shut down from Commerce City to Nebraska. 

Near zero visibility on the plains has forced the Elizabeth Fire Protection District to stop all plows in Elbert County. Road conditions aren't much better elsewhere.

An 80 mph wind gust was clocked at Denver International Airport just before noon on Wednesday, signalling wind as powerful as a Category 1 hurricane.

Snow totals will be less in areas closer to the mountains, but expected accumulation keeps increasing as forecasters check new models, the NWS said. 

Strong winds are expected to continue blizzard conditions over the plains throughout the night, while some improvement is expected closer to the mountains. Still, strong winds and drifting snow are expected to make travel very difficult.

RELATED | What exactly is a blizzard, anyway?

In addition to trouble for the metro, FoCo, Colorado Springs and the plains, the northern mountains are getting high winds and heavy snow - similarly creating poor travel conditions. A large chunk of Wyoming is also under a blizzard warning Wednesday.

The National Weather Service suggests those considering traveling in the northeastern portion of the state cancel their plans - specifically across the mountains and then the plains.

If you head somewhere in the morning, the NWS said, you may end up stranded wherever you traveled to by the afternoon.

RELATED | Heavy mountain snow, thunderstorms tonight, Eastern Plains Blizzard Wednesday

Another possible traffic trouble spot is the metro area, forecasters at the National Weather Service said. The entire I-25 urban corridor could become gridlocked - power outages and snow piling into traffic signals isn't helping anything. 9NEWS will continue to follow the storm and keep you constantly updated on traffic conditions.

RELATED | 9NEWS Traffic Center: Check conditions

WATCH BELOW: 5 of Denver's top 20 snowstorms have happened in March

A "blizzard warning" means that severe winter weather conditions are either expected or currently occurring, according to NWS. Due to the intensity of falling or blowing snow and strong winds, extremely poor visibility is likely. This inevitably leads to "whiteout" conditions. Never travel in a blizzard. If you absolutely must travel, make sure to have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle.

In addition to the blizzard warning, nearly every square mile of the state is under some kind of warning, including Avalanche Warnings in most of the High Country (especially in the southwestern area), High Wind Warnings in the far-southern edge of the state, Winter Storm Warnings for most of the Western Slope and some Winter Weather Advisories for the rest of the state. The full warning and watch map can be seen on the NWS website

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